Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Santiago de Compostela--Avila, Salamanca, Santiago, Leon

(March 4-8)

This trip was to the north west of Spain. That area is the wettest part of the entire peninusla and gets a ton of rain. But, amazingly enough for us, we were there an entire week and didn't even see a drop. We really luck out on the weather.

Our first stop was in Avila to see the cathedral and outer walls. Avila has the best example of medieval walls in Spain. It was pretty amazing too. There were around 88 of the turret-type things. And it was extremely fun because we could climb ontop of the wall and into the towers. Needless to say we loved it--myself included. We never pass up an opportunity to climb things and be adventurous. The wind here was incredibly strong and cold, so climbing up between the crevices was even more adventurous than normal. But that definitely didn't stop us.

We then moved on to Salamanca which is a university town. They have one of the five oldest universities in the world. And they definitely have stories to go along with it.

The facade of the cathedral there had been restored and someone thought they were extremely clever and put in some rather modern adjustments. Look familiar?

And then in the facade of the university there's a hidden frog. It's said (well at least the BYU version) that if you find it without help, you will get married within a year. I think the general one is just luck in marriage. Appropriately so, the engaged girl in our group found it first. I was probably the fifth or sixth. Who knows what that means. Can you find it?
At night we strolled throughout what felt like the entire city. We found the old Roman bridge and took some pictures. But it was freezing here as well, so before long we headed back to the hotel where we packed as many people as possible in a room to watch a movie or Scrubs.

Next was a stop at a little coastal town where Fernando, our bus driver for almost all our trips, thought we'd enjoy ourselves. And he was right. It was along the Atlantic coast and was beautiful. Jumpy pictures have become extremely popular in our group and this was a perfect opportunity. Plus it was really nice to get out of the bus. And I found an amazing shell. It's the symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago. There were shells similar to this all over Santiago--including the cathedral.

It took all day to get to Santiago, and by then we were starving for dinner so we went out for Chinese food. Yep, Chinese food in Santiago. It was absolutely delicious.
The cathedral in Santiago has my favorite exterior out of all the cathedrals we've seen. Because it's so humid and wet in this area there's moss growing all over the building. Normally cathedrals seem so intimidating and slightly menacing. But this one was different. There were signs of life on the cathedral. It made it more realistic and . . . real to me. Well, that doesn't really make any sense, but there it is anyway.
So, that night we decided to watch the sunset. We saw a distant hill/mountain and decided to climb it. I'm proud to say that we did. Through a lot of guess work and climbing, we made it to the perfect location to watch the sunset on Santiago. It must have been funny to watch us because there were around 16 people just walking through town and then hiking up a rather steep hill. But the hike was worth it. It was incredibly beautiful.
Our last stop was in Leon. This city was incredible. The cathedral was relatively normal from the outside but when you walked in, your were immediately surrounded by stained glass. It's said that there is more glass than stone in the top half of the building. It must be true because every thing was beautiful glass. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed.
We then explored Leon. We went in search of a park and found an amazing playground. This is the type of equipment the US has banned as being too "dangerous". Needless to say, we had an absolute blast climbing all over this rope spider-web aparatus. It was great fun.
We also found the open market in a massive plaza. This place was packed with food stands and people. There was so much going on at once. There were so many colors, noises and smells that it was definitely an experience just to walk around.


So I know that I'm falling way behind on this whole blog thing, but I really can't just pick up from the present and move on. I must tell y'all about Andorra. (Feb. 28-Mar 1)
(Oh, and sorry about all the picture in random places, I wanted to get them on here, but once they are they don't cooperate very well. You'll just have to mix and match.)

It's this little principality between France and Spain, and seeing how it's still on the Iberian Peninsula, we're still allowed to visit it.

So we finally arrive in Andorra and we head out to enjoy ourselves. We went to the postal museum. Now, that may sound pretty dumb, but it wasn't. Andorra has the weirdest postal service alive. Every post drop on the street has two separate boxes--one for France and one for Spain. I sent postcards through France. And then mail within Andorra is completely free! Seriously, how sweet is that?!

Our next stop was the miniatures museums. Ya know how the saying goes "I'll do that when a camel passes through the eye of a needle" or something along those lines. Well, you'll have to do whatever it is you were trying to avoid, because I've seen it. Actually, there were three camels, a pyramid and a palm tree all within the eye of a needle. And that was just one exhibit. It was absolutely incredible.

But my favorite thing in Andorra was ice-go-karting. It was the funnest thing ever! I absolutely loved it. Plus, I've come to realize that I really do have a need for speed and that I really do like to go fast. The skidding on the ice was a blast too. You could either try to go around seriously, or you could just skid around. I did a little of both and it was an absolute blast! Oh, and it was pretty funny too, because they give you jumpsuits and helmets, then when you're turn comes you get on the ice and then without any further instructions or rules they let you go. You've got 7 go-karts just racing around the ice. And it was great because out of the seven of us, there were three different languages: English, French, and Portuguese.
We then took leapy picture because we were here on leap day. Seriously, you have to have some sort of jumpy-leapy picture on leap day. It only comes once every four years--you've got to take advantage of that!
The following day consisted of random walks and blowing bubbles. For some truly random reason, Andorra has the highest consumption of bubble gum in the world. I don't know why, but it does. Ergo, we blew bubbles--we had to. Oh, and we saw this statue outside the church. Check out his right hand.
We drove back to Barcelona (there are no airports or trains in Andorra. The only way to get there is to drive in through Spain or France) and enjoyed our 5 hours until our flight left back to Madrid. We saw the Arc de Triumpf as well as a beautiful park and the Mediterranean Sea. Yes, that's right I have now been in the Mediterranean! It was beautiful and cold and provided amazing polished rocks.
Well, overall I think it is extremely safe to say that I had a blast that weekend.